Saturday, January 25, 2014

Margaret Atwood's 'The Blind Assassin' - Discussion Questions

Margaret Atwood

(1939 - Present)

Does this book have a dominant theme? The author has objections to her work being typified as feminist – but can the women in this novel be described as victims of a patriarchal society, or do they merely suffer the consequences of their own flawed judgment? Are the male characters more empowered than the women in this novel?

“To all appearances I was my father’s child…But appearances are deceptive. I could never have driven off a bridge. My father could have. My mother couldn’t.” Discuss the character of Iris Chase. If history is indeed the record of survivors, is Iris tragic or heroic in her endurance? Trace the arc of the character’s evolution from the Iris’ childhood through her old age.

These are Iris’ words on her sister, Laura: “She had a heightened capacity for belief. She left herself open, she entrusted herself, she gave herself over, she put herself at the mercy. A little incredulity would have been a first line of defense.” What are the differences between the two sisters? Are there any similarities between them? Did Iris fail Laura in any way, or has she been Laura’s champion?

To quote Tolstoy, “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Discuss the watershed events of the Chase family, the tragedies that marred their childhood, and predicates their unfortunate adult lives.

How does Atwood intricately link Canada’s history and society to the development of plot and character?

Discuss the literary elements used with such élan by Atwood Рthe epistolary style; the story within a story technique; and the ironic humor.

The society girl in Laura Chase’s novel has a difficult relationship with her fugitive lover. What draws them together; and what keeps them apart? Is the attraction real; or are the obstacles real? Having read the book, discuss what has never been overtly stated – why is the young man on the run from the law? What was his crime, and what was his degree of guilt?

The Chase sisters’ mother lives a life of piety and service; day-dreaming Laura seeks her refuge in faith; harder-headed Iris rejects it; and the dwellers of Sakiel-Norn use it as an excuse for their depravities - explore the varied perspectives on religion in this book.

Does the fantastical story spun by Alex Thomas have any correlation to reality in this novel? Discuss the parallels.

“It means nothing to him that she’s little more than a decorated and bejeweled prisoner. It means nothing to him that the same people who have made him blind have made her mute.” [from ‘The Blind Assassin’ by Laura Chase]

“I feel despised there, for having so little money; also for once having had so much. I never actually had it of course. Father had it, and then Richard. But money was imputed to me, the same way crimes were imputed to those who’ve simply been present at them.” [Iris Chase ]

 “This above all, to refuse to be a victim.” [Margaret Atwood]

How would you tie the first two quotes together; and, how would you reconcile them with the third when on the surface of the novel (and the novel- within-the-novel) victimization seems quite rampant?

Who is, or, who are the blind assassins in this novel? Justify your choice(s).

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